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What makes us "International" teachers?

Discussion in 'Teaching abroad' started by 52jss, Mar 7, 2011.

  1. I've been teaching in several International Schools for a while, in fact for more years than I have in the UK, and wonder what it is that defines an "International Teacher." Some colleagues thought that just teaching overseas made them international, but I think there is more to it than that. I have worked with some teachers who were clearly not international in outlook, and some who were, but I am not sure what the criteria are. If we want to return to the UK to teach, there is a certain feeling that you have not been really teaching, and your experience counts less. Also, you are seen as "out of touch" with recent developments in education! There are many definitions of International Education, and also International Schools, but not one for the teachers working in them. Any comments?
  2. SMT dude

    SMT dude New commenter

    Entire University departments beetle their collective brows full-time over this question, and we read earnest articles in those ineffable magazines that drift across the staffroom table into the recycling bin, and there are international bodies writing and revising right-on criteria for the certification/accreditation of 'International Teachers'... all while we continue to work for the hegemony of Western enlightenment values.
    Most of us have heard very very insular Brits Yanks and Aussies claiming to be internationalists because they once leared the gamelin, or can curse in Swahili, or because they once had an Amazonian shaman blow smoke up their nostrils, or went out for a while with a Malaysian transvestite while they were working in Kiev (sorry, Ky'iv).
    The most internationalist claim I ever heard, emerged from the battered mouth of a low-lifer in a bar in the gorgeous city of Cartagena (Colombia). He claimed to speak seven languages, to have ancestors in six countries, to have been deported from five, and imprisoned in four.
    Low-lifer he may have been, but he had avoided becoming a teacher and had not seen the inside of a classroom (other than those in correctional facilities) since the age of 14. His professional line was more the global informal medicinal/pharmaceutical freelance import-export network, which had turned him into a versatile multilingual reflective lifelong learner and internatioanally-aware risk-taker, as required by the IB's learner profile but without sitting through so much as one minute of ToK.
    I can get by in four languages, have loved working in five countries, have always tried to make local friends, watch local TV, eat the food, (oh, and drink the booze) read the history, understand who the politicians and local luminaries are, support a local football team preferably the one associated with the upper bourgeoisie/ancien régime rather than the people's team... and so on...
    ...aaaand of course have always supported/initiated those activities all schools put on when they have 40 nationalities, to ensure that each of them is ('be', Cap'n?) admired, respected or at least acknowledged...
    ,,, but have no aspirations at all to be dubbed 'International', being inevitably and conspicuously a son of Nempnett Thrubwell.
    I did have a go at Tango classes in Argentina, and Salsa in Colombia, two of the most mortifying episodes in a life rich in such embarrassing tomfoolery.
    Would sign off with a favourite and apposite Latin quotation, but have used it here twice before and don't want to be spanked - well, not by the monoglot internationalists, anyway.
  3. Mainwaring

    Mainwaring Lead commenter

    Heartily seconded. My revered guru (it just means 'teacher', BTW) Prof Jeff Thompson has written reams on the subject without ever satisfactorily nailing it.
    I speak English reasonably well, am better than OK in Spanish, can stagger along in French and occasionally surprise myself in German and Italian. Having lived in Catalunya I understand written and spoken Catalá and am currently studying some songs in that lovely language. But tant pis (Aunty spends a penny).
    Wilfred Thesiger, with whom I once shared tea and walnut cake, was formidably multilingual and deeply experienced in a number of cultures but would have laughed at the idea that he might be 'international'. My Latin American students used to award me brownie points for reading up on the troubled history of their continong.
    My sons are close to bilingual (English-Spanish) as is my American daughter-in-law. My other daughter-in-law earns her living in English and, being Dutch, takes several other idioms in her stride without ever quite managing 'th'. I'm confident that none of my brood, spawned or delightfully acquired, could begin to define 'international' either.
    The Dude raises a knotty grammatical problem which I've been trying over in both my reasonably competent languages. '...to ensure that each of them IS admired' FEELS right and, I think IS right. If you ensure something it is not in doubt and therefore it is indicative and not subjunctive. ¿Innit?

  4. Karvol

    Karvol Occasional commenter

    Is being "international" essentially being rootless?
    I could never describe myself as being international, as my background is too deeply rooted in English culture. However, I am not sure how I would describe my children. Neither of them was born in England, nor do they hold any great affinity ( at this stage ) for it. Neither do they live in the countries of their birth.
    I suppose they could assume the trappings of the country they currently reside in, if we lived there long enough, but since I work in a boarding school they, in reality, live in a "bubble", surrounded by other children from myriad countries and nationalities.
    So does being "international" really mean having no real emotional ties to any one country. Or maybe even having no great "feel" for the culture of a particular country?
    Or is that just ignorance?
  5. Mainwaring

    Mainwaring Lead commenter

    I suspect that foot-looseness may common factor among the 'international' young. It seems to me that my younger son has conceived a greater affection for England in general and Sussex in particular than might have been the case if he had not been brung up in furrin parts, but having lived in cosmopolitan Brighton for the past few years, he and his better half are thinking of moving in the direction of one or other set of parents/ grandparents, which means either Holland or Spain. Quite a contrast with my Dad who was adamant that five years of carrying a rifle in North Africa, Italy and Austria was quite enough internationalism for one lifetime.
  6. momentofclarity

    momentofclarity New commenter

    <font size="3">Certainly some of the best reading I have come across on these forums, some very insightful posts. Although with considerably less experience and limited overseas exposure I think I have in my mind what makes an "international teacher" as the OP asks - specifically it is the moment when we find ourselves conscious of and stopping the use of the phrase "in my old school/country/city etc". Although this is not exclusive to international teaching the mobility and relatively regular shifting of staff certainly lends itself to this attitude more often than in our home countries. I don't think being international is what we can do, or what we have done, rather it is the cumulative experiences that allow us to view the world from a wider angle than someone who does not have them. Both professionally and personally I think this makes us better people....okay, that is not necessarily true but I certainly feel more aware of the world than friends and family back home who have not shared similar experiences. Hope to hear more from people, this is an excellent question.</font>
  7. My tyrant is preparing 'un men&uacute; de degustaci&oacute;n stilo Mugaritz'. Today I can say it's worth staying here to eat culture.
  8. SMT dude

    SMT dude New commenter

    ...while you can.
    Before long, 'eating culture' may mean tearing up our favourite volumes of revolutionary Central American poetry and stir-blending the pages into our lentil-and-onion paste to add body and texture (geddit?)
    Especially in your country, where today's election will install a government quite prepared to abolish unemployment benefit, gay marriage, bilingual education and FC Barcelona.
    &iexcl;arriba espa&ntilde;a!
    Here in splendid Ruritania, bright sunshine floods the kitchen, where the aromas of West 49th Street titillate the nostrils of Elderly Educator, Teenage Tyrant and Feline Friend. The ice cubes tinkle in my second quadruple vodkatini, and a bottle of 'Cortijo del Rector Gran Reserva 1982' is breathing on the sideboard.
    God is in his Heaven... let him prove it by helping Chelsea to prevail over the scouser scoombags after lunch.
    I will get around to answering the OP, honestly I will...
  9. miketribe

    miketribe Established commenter

    "baked zitti"? Isn't that just posh macaroni cheese?
  10. SMT dude

    SMT dude New commenter

    Yes, that's more or less correct, Mike. Give or take some toques which I cannnot describe on an open forum.
    Now get out and vote, hombre...
  11. miketribe

    miketribe Established commenter

    I voted at 10 o'clock this morning. It was tricky this time. PSOE and PP seem more or less indistinguishable. I ended up voting for IU even though they are so rooted in the past that some of the leadership still hasn't come to terms with the death of Stalin...
  12. SMT dude

    SMT dude New commenter

    Met plenty of them, Mike. And equal numbers of similar delusionists who yearn for the second coming of the Foney Faraoh of El Ferrol. And both herds of dinosaurs have this in common - they think that
    But the Spanish have become the world's leading hedonists, and I don't think they'll fall into fratricide again in a hurry. Although the IU, if ever elected, might easily spring an Iran-d&eacute;j&agrave;-vu experience on you by closing down your school..
    Now, here comes that hapless Spaniard Torres - will he get the winner for Chelsea ?
  13. SMT dude

    SMT dude New commenter

    Hmmm... no. God was having a siesta.
  14. .
    A good day to be a scouse athiest.
    Liverpool 2 - Chelsea 1

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